TV’s 13 top terror towns, from Collinsport, Maine, to Castle Rock, Maine
TV’s 13 top terror towns, from Collinsport, Maine, to Castle Rock, Maine
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Hulu’s supernatural series “Castle Rock,” which premiered Wednesday, July 25, puts viewers in the middle of a small Maine town where terror lurks around every dark corner. Indeed, horror is by far the main industry in this fictional community designed by Stephen King as the setting for such novels as “The Dead Zone,” “Cujo,” “The Dark Half” and “Needful Things.”
But Castle Rock hardly is the first such terror town featured in a TV series. And it’s not the first paranormal program set in a small Maine town. In fact, “Castle Rock” is not even the first series to feature a “ghost town” found in a King novel.
So the arrival of this streaming series inspired by King stories and characters reminds us that the medium has long been enchanted by these monstrous municipalities that, for one reason or another (or no reason at all), have become horror hot spots. These are the favorite haunts of vampires, witches, werewolves, warlocks, shape-shifters, ghosts, demons, zombies and all kinds of creatures of the night.
Our journey begins and ends in Maine, the state claiming three of TV’s 13 top terror towns. If you’ve been frightened to death in one of these locations, put the blame on Maine – or at least on the long reach of “Dark Shadows”:
Collinsport, Maine (“Dark Shadows,” 1966-71): The ABC daytime soap opera started out as a Gothic, but shifted to the supernatural with the introduction of a ghost, a phoenix and then, most spectacularly, a conflicted vampire named Barnabas Collins (played by Shakespearean actor Jonathan Frid). The bloodgates were open, and the pop-culture hit soon was spotlighting such popular characters as Quentin Collins (David Selby as a malevolent spirit, a zombie, a werewolf and in a “Picture of Dorian Gray” phase) and Angelique (Lara Parker as a witch and a vampire).
Chicago, Illinois (“Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” 1974-75): One of only two locations on the list that’s not fictional, the Windy City wins a spot because, in just one ABC season, reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) encountered, among others, Jack the Ripper, a werewolf, a vampire, a zombie, an alien being, a witch, a succubus, a headless motorcycle rider and the angry spirit of an evil knight. Like “Dark Shadows,” “Kolchak” had an enormous influence on horror shows of later decades, including “The X-Files,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Supernatural.”
Twin Peaks, Washington (“Twin Peaks,” 1990-91, 2017): Executive producer David Lynch’s relentlessly weird and creepily complex blend of horror, mystery, mysticism and surrealism was played out on one of the most unsettling and intriguing landscapes ever dreamed up for a series or film. It all began on ABC with FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) investigating the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), and 38 years, a spin-off movie and a Showtime revival later, the horror has only grown and the mystery deepened.
Eerie, Indiana (“Eerie, Indiana,” 1991-92): Omri Katz starred as Marshall Teller, sort of a teenage Carl Kolchak, always encountering strange phenomena, from Bigfoot to dogs planning a takeover, in the aptly named town where his New Jersey family recently moved. The clever but short-lived NBC series was a sly blend of horror, humor, drama, mystery and science fiction.
Trinity, South Carolina (“American Gothic,” 1995-96): Created by series producers Shaun Cassidy and Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead”), this CBS drama was as dark as prime-time network television got in the mid-’90s. Trinity was a small town with many twisted secrets and a super-scary sheriff, Lucas Buck (Gary Cole), with supernatural powers. Like “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” and “Eerie, Indiana,” it lasted just one sensational season.
Sunnydale, California (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” 1997-2003): Never happy with the 1992 film version of his story “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” writer-producer Joss Whedon took the character of Buffy Summers into a series, now played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. This time we got an explanation for all of the vampires, werewolves, witches and demons. The high school was built over a hellmouth. The acclaimed show spawned a spin-off drama, “Angel,” with David Boreanaz’s conscience-stricken vampire setting up shop in Los Angeles (as if La-La Land needed more strange characters).
Bon Temps, Louisiana (“True Blood,” 2008-14): The rural hometown of telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse also was home to vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and, as we gradually learned, werewolves, witches, fairies, shape-shifters and other residents of the supernatural kind. Created by writer-producer Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”), the HBO series was based on the Charlaine Harris novels known as “The Southern Vampire Mysteries.” Another popular vampire on “True Blood” was Eric Northman (played by Alexander Skarsgard).
Mystic Falls, Virginia (“The Vampire Diaries,” 2009-17): A year after “True Blood” premiered, the CW unveiled its own supernatural series set in a small town and based on a series of novels (these written by L.J. Smith). At the heart of the show was high school student Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and the Salvatore brothers, vampires Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder). This world also expanded to include werewolves, witches and ghosts. The mythology expanded with a spin-off series, “The Originals,” set in New Orleans.
Haven, Maine (“Haven,” 2010-15): Loosely based on King’s “The Colorado Kid,” this Syfy series began with FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) sent to a small Maine town called Haven. She is drawn into the return of what the locals call “The Troubles,” a plague of supernatural afflictions.
Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania (“Hemlock Grove,” 2013-15): Based on the novel by Brian McGreevy, this Netflix drama starred Alexander Skarsgard’s kid brother, Bill, as Roman Godfrey, heir to an estate in a Pennsylvania town where the steel mill has been shut down but the rumor mill is up and running. One of the rumors holds that 17-year-old Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) is a werewolf (he is) and that he’s responsible for the brutal killings of teenage girls. Bill Skarsgard’s association with the horror genre continued with his portrayals of Pennywise in “It” and the Kid in “Castle Rock.”
Sleepy Hollow, New York (“Sleepy Hollow,” 2013-17): The other “real” location on the list is Sleepy Hollow, the Hudson River village that’s the setting for Washington Irving’s short story about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” This Fox series started strong, using the story as a jumping-off point for a drama about Ichabod (Tom Mison) awakening in 2013 and teaming with police officer Abigail Mills (Nicole Beharie).
Hawkins, Indiana (“Stranger Things,” 2016-present): Greatly influenced by King stories and John Carpenter films, the Duffer brothers’ Netflix series follows a wide range of characters in the fictional Indiana town of Hawkins. The town is a terror zone primarily because of experiments conducted by the Hawkins National Laboratory, which has created a portal to an alternate dimension known as “the Upside Down.”
Castle Rock, Maine (“Castle Rock,” premiered July 25): And we’re back in Maine for the Hulu series starring Andre Holland (“American Horror Story: Roanoke”) as Henry Deaver, a death-row attorney lured back to his hometown, Castle Rock, by an anonymous call from Shawshank State Prison. The cast also features Bill Skarsgard and several other stars with King credits, including Sissy Spacek (“Carrie”), Melanie Lynskey (“Rose Red”) and Terry O’Quinn (“Silver Bullet”).